1. The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. ESV., Numb. 1:1-2
RAF: Our English Bibles take the title of “Numbers” due to the fact that there are two, very important censuses taken during the period of history it covers. However, the traditional Hebrew title of “In The Wilderness” seems more appropriate. Note how God culls out those who fail to believe His promises. How unbelief and disobedience are so linked as to be virtual synonyms. Indeed, the first transgression – the root of all disobedience – is failure to believe God above Satan, the World, and even (perhaps especially) ourselves.
2. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. ESV., Numb 2:1-2
RAF: This is a most wonderfully graphic illustration of what it means to have God at the very center of your life. No matter what direction geographically each one was facing, they were ALL to be facing the “tent of meeting” – the place of God’s presence. Some would be facing north, some south, some east, and some west – but all were oriented NOT according to the map, but according to the Tabernacle. How about you? Is this how you orient your life? Regardless of your career, irrespective of your family situation, regardless of your financial or social status – do you camp, do you reside, always facing the place of God’s presence? This is the great need. They could have all had their tents pitched all around the Tabernacle, but still not been facing it. It is not enough to say that Christ is simply at the center – we must be truly facing Him, seeking Him, looking to Him at all times and in every encampment or situation.
3. 5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. 7 They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. 8 They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.” ESV., Numb. 3:5-10
RAF: 1 Pet. 2:9 reminds us that the Church comprises a “royal priesthood.” It is our duty to be the guardians, the protectors of our Great High Priest, His People, His Church – His Truth. Do we give ourselves to guard the sacred trust of His Word to us? This is so that who and what Christ is and what He has done and continues to do in His High Priestly role is preserved and proclaimed from generation to generation. In every generation there are those who would obscure Him. They would deny His divinity, or His humanity, or His being the God/Man. They would begin and propagate myths about Him contrary to the truth of His Word. They would obscure the need for His substitutionary sacrifice. They would add works to salvation or deny we need saving from the wrath of God at all. They would seek to undermine the authority of Scripture and the exclusivity of Christ as the Savior alone. They would pervert the nature of His Church and His teaching and His mission. We are set here to protect His Gospel, His name, His glory. We are to be sure that what has been built upon the foundation of Christ is passed on faithfully to the generations which follow as long as He tarries. We are to keep men apprised of their hopeless condition in sin, their lost and dead state and of the salvation to be found only by means of faith in the work of the Son of God at Calvary. We are to keep His reputation from being mythologized or co-opted by those who would use it for their own ends. We are guardians of the sacred glories of Christ our Savior. Are we about this business? What about those who come behind us? Young men, are you ready to take up this challenge? Old men, are you training them? Church – do we take our Guardianship seriously?
4. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 18 “Let not the tribe of the clans of the Kohathites be destroyed from among the Levites, 19 but deal thus with them, that they may live and not die when they come near to the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint them each to his task and to his burden, 20 but they shall not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment, lest they die.” ESV., Numb. 4:17-20
RAF: It is true even in ministry, that everyone neither can nor should do everything. There are some appointed to one aspect of ministry, and others to other aspects. But it is a sad truth that often, we are not content with God’s gifts to us. Sometimes we can lust after the gifts and privileges of others. When we do so, we expose ourselves to God’s discipline. Jealousy of other’s ministries is one sure way to disqualify ourselves from what God has given to us. Israel’s history will show how among the 3 divisions of the Levites, jealousy and seeking the place of others will be terribly destructive. Let it not be so among us. Let us remember that every gift of God, is, a gift of God. And to weigh or compare our gifts against one another to think as the world and the flesh does. Given all the fruit of all the trees on the Garden, the one Adam and Eve just HAD to have – was the one not given to them. Oh Father, guard our hearts against such craven longings. Another’s office may be well and good, but to lust after it over and above what you have given to us, is rank idolatry and is sure to bring your hand upon us heavily. Keep us from it. Let us prize what you have placed in our hands – and tend to it with all that is within us.